While working throughout Egypt, Degner often heard about miracles and that they come in many forms: miracles that are written about in newspapers, for example, or miracles that are only discussed confidentially. His pursuit of these stories lead him to nearly every part of the country: from cities to villages, from mountains to valleys, from deserts to seas. He diligently tracked even the faintest whisper of a miracle story to its source and sought to understand people’s individual experiences and the apparent purpose of these miracles.

Modern Miracles as a project is rooted in a relentless question about material dualism that dated back to Degner’s days as a student of philosophy and evolved into an attempt to photograph the places where the material and the immaterial meet. Today it comprises an extensive collection of images depicting miracles in Egypt not as something rare and abstract, but as everyday occurrences. This solo exhibition is a result of his personal project that has been seven years in the making.


A selection of photos displayed at the exhibition in Cairo, Egypt.

Cat with wings

This photo is from Bulaq in in Cairo, but reminds me of my first attempt to track down a miracle in Ismailia.

It starts with a youtube video titled “Miracle, flying cat seen in Egypt”. I click on it and there is a white cat with wings on the table of a simple home in Ismailia. The father stretches out the wings and turns it around, so the journalist can get a better view. The family says it landed on their balcony, “It is a sign from God,” especially as its landing coincides Sisi’s rise to power.

The journalist who originally reported on the cat says he will take me to meet the family, but stops answering his phone. So I am left to search alone with the three facts I can glean from the video: The father’s name is Ibrahim Naseem, He lives in a neighborhood called Salam, and he is a Christian.

I start my quest early in the morning, with a strategy of visiting all the churches  and asking for Ibrahim. Since there are 5 churches in the neighborhood I assume I will eventually find him. At each church people try to be helpful but none of them have heard of Ibrahim Naseem or his winged cat.

By 3pm I find the last church and I duck inside. The security guards wave me over and ask what I want. I tell them I am looking for Ibrahim and a winged cat. I get excited when they say “come with us”, and we start walking. We walk all the way to the district police station.

In the station I share the same story of my search for a winged cat to a series of low level police men until I am passed up to the head of the station. I am lead into an air conditioned office and told to wait my turn because there is already a fat sweaty man standing at attention in front of the officers desk wearing only white underwear. He is being yelled at about something to do with drugs.

The naked man is ushered out and I am invited to have a seat and share my story of miraculous cats with the police chief of the district. I expect some sort of reaction but the officer doesn’t even blink. He asks to look at the photos on my camera and tells me to wait a little longer outside, as if this is a normal occurrence.

I am taken out and another man is brought in. My short wait turns into 2 hours in an office with low level police who were filling out reports, drinking coffee and organizing a drawer full of cell phones. I’m bored so I ask them about the cat with wings, and while these are the state’s eyes and ears on the ground none of them have heard of such a thing in their district.

I’m not under arrest, but I’m not allowed to go, and no one will tell me what I am waiting for. So, I keep in contact with a few colleagues just in case I am disappeared down to one of the holding cells. Eventually a dapper looking member of State Security walks in and introduced himself in perfect english.

He pulls out a pen and a pad of paper and starts interviewing me about my search and taking notes for an addition to my security file.

I am released and walk back to the last church. A deacon who knew everyone in the church said he didn’t know any Ibrahim Naseem and assured me that I had visited all the churches in the area. So I trudged back to my hotel defeated.

The next morning, I take a taxi to the bus station and retell this whole story to the driver. He says I forgot to visit the one small evangelical church, a minority sect of a minority religion. We happen to be near the tire shop of one of their prominent business members so he drops me there.

Inside I ask for Ibrahim Naseem and the owner puts me on the back of a motorcycle and tells his shop boy to drive me back into the neighborhood.

Within 15 minutes, after a few false starts, I meet the neighbor of Ibrahim, who confirms the cat with wings. But, Ibrahim is at work on the other side of the city so I take his phone number and call him. It was a short and sad conversation over a bad connection. But he tells me how that moment of jubilation at the sign from God had turned into doubt and eventually they questioned if the cat came from God, or the devil.

So they cut off the cat’s wings, and the cat ran away, lost somewhere, walking through the streets of Ismailia.


Modern Miracles is now a traveling exhibition, on the road to it’s next location.  Hint:  ☕??

Thanks for a succesful exhibition at the Ma’qad of Sultan Qaitbey with The Sultan Foundation, and ARCHiNOS Architecture.

Modern Miracles is curated by Alexandra Stock and has been made possible with the generous support of the Sultan Foundation, Agnieszka Dobrowolska, Shadi Momtaz, and George Seif.


Modern Miracles has been published in National Geographic and discussed on several Egyptian TV programs and publications.